massacre at columbine high
Shock spreads around the world
By Fred BrownDenver Post Capitol Bureau Chief
April 21 - The horrific magnitude of Tuesday's slayings at Columbine High School flashed around the world and left normally glib journalists struggling for words.
"It's a terrible way for Denver to come across to the rest of the world,'' said Jim Kennedy, an anchorman for the British Broadcasting Corp. who interviewed a Denver reporter live; it was midnight in Britain.
The BBC telephoned repeatedly. So did broadcasters in Australia, Scotland, Mexico and throughout Canada and the United States.
"I saw that boy, who looked dead, being dragged out the window,'' Kennedy said, his words coming slowly. "This escalates the whole thing, doesn't it?''
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo saw that scene, too - a male figure, bloodied, one arm limp, toppling out of a window into the arms of police.
"They keep showing that kid coming out of that window. It makes me sick to my stomach,'' Tancredo said, watching the continuous cable news coverage from his office in Washington, D.C.
Columbine High School is in Tancredo's 6th Congressional District - just a mile from his home, he said. He's a former teacher, but he never had to cope with anything approaching the depths of Tuesday's tragedy.
"All you think about is dead kids and parents whose hearts have been broken. It's so hard to talk about. I just feel helpless,'' Tancredo said.
Some of the foreign journalists who called suggested Denver may have to live with the stain on its reputation as long as Dallas did after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.
They had heard about the Colorado Legislature's struggle with gun legislation this year; it quickly became an element of the story.
There was speculation internationally, as well as locally, to what effect the shootings might have on those bills.
Supporters of relaxed gun laws would argue that an armed teacher or principal could have stopped the killing earlier, they said. Opponents would argue that anything that shows even the slightest encouragement of gun usage should be quashed.
Tancredo, a Republican and a supporter of gun rights, suggested that more laws may not be the answer.
"Look at all the laws that were violated here already,'' he said.
"It behooves every one of us who's in some position of making public policy to look at every single law that's on the books, every possible way you can of preventing something like this from happening. Nothing is off the table,'' Tancredo said.
Tancredo said he did some quick research on school shootings after he got word about Columbine. There had been a phenomenal 30 since 1992, he said, although in most cases "it was kids who looked like every other kid in the school.''
But not this time. The suspected shooters appeared to be outcasts, filled with hate for their popular and active classmates.
"If they do belong to this cult-like organization, that tells me that in this case anyway we actually do have an indicator of a problem,'' Tancredo said.
Maybe that offers some small hope, he added.
"These kids may have been trying to tell somebody that there's something wrong - the way they act, dress.
"It's the only possible sense I can make out of this thing; the only iota of hope I can glean from this thing. Find those folks who have that potential and do something about it,'' Tancredo said.
"If there is a lesson, it's to identify those troubled, troubled people out there. Maybe it's total rationalizing to think there might be something we can do to prevent it again.''
A radio broadcaster in Melbourne, Australia, was one of those who suggested the story might change the psyche of Denver and Colorado. There was a mass killing in Melbourne several years ago, and "that has changed people's thinking for generation,'' said broadcaster John Faine.
Another BBC broadcaster was amazed that it had taken so long for police to enter the school and release names. "It's real weird,'' she said. "It's like JonBenét.''
Other members of Colorado's congressional delegation issued statements expressing shock. "We need to search for ways to ensure that our kids are arming themselves with books and knowledge in our schools, not guns,'' said 2nd District Rep. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat.
"Like all Coloradans, I am shocked by the shooting at Columbine High School,'' said U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican.
"It also makes me angry that a place which is supposed to be a safe haven for students has been turned into a war zone. The last place a student should fear for his or her safety is a school.''
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